On The Big Island of Hawaii, in a little town called Honoka’a, lies Waipi’o Cookhouse, the first farm-to-table restaurant in the United States. A local favorite, our great Aunt Fritzi took us there to sample the local fare and to marvel at the view.
While we feasted on a mahi-mahi sandwich and a cobb salad, chef “Tiny” Gonzales, circulated the “al fresco” dining space spreading “aloha.” We happened to overhear him tell a guest that this is the first farm-to-table restaurant in the United States. So naturally, we needed to investigate this claim. Chef Tiny confirmed the claim and agreed to an interview and photos with our subway handle on a future visit.
A week later, we returned to interview Chef Tiny. We ordered a lamb burger and a mahi-mahi salad, which promptly disappeared. After we had politely devoured our lunches we inquired about his statement. Chef “Tiny” said that the original owners, Larry and Colleen, who are currently partners, applied for a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to use his farm-grown fruit to make smoothies.
They purchased 17 acres of farm land in 2010, and in 2012, after an education on the new Hawaii Agriculture Sustainability Law, they were awarded the certificate, the first of its kind. This permit allowed them to serve their own food and agriculture grown and raised on their land. And thus, farm-to-table was born in the U.S. Chef Tiny even supplied a copy of the certificate, which is included in the carousel of images above. They raise cattle and pigs, and grow vegetables and fruit on their farm, and fish is sourced from local fishermen.
Chef Tiny is a really interesting guy. He moved to The Big Island 27 years ago from the Bronx, NYC. The, “What size shoes are those?” 1970’s Bronx, but Hawaii seems like a natural fit for Chef Gonzalez. Their group had help from Sandy, a gourmet chef who teaches at the Culinary School in Hilo, and Paul, who made a mountain of logistics come together.
They have several covered dining areas and are planning an expansion and a new menu, so that they can share the Hawaiian “aloha” with large groups. If you’re ever hungry on The Big Island, check out Waipi’o Cookhouse, and say “Hi” to Chef Tiny and farm-to-table